Plastic in the sea – a perpetual problem
Plastic waste that has grown to huge proportions is a problem both in the oceans in the Baltic Sea. Especially problematic is the comminuted plastic waste, which means a constant threat to birds and other life forms.
In 1997, during a sailing home from Hawaii, discovered the American yachtsman and oceanographer Charles J. Moore, something that his worst fears come true. During the week, when Moore and his crew on the boat Alguita broke through the subtropical high-pressure area sailed the literally in a sea of plastic. Moore describes how he, whenever he stood on the deck, saw the plastic garbage everywhere – plastic bottles, corks, packaging and plastic pieces. The plastic, mostly small plastic particles, formed a plastic soup down to ten meters deep. Then either sailors or fishermen normally moves in the area had the huge plastic accumulation not previously detected. The plastic can not be seen on satellite images because it mainly concerns very small plastic fragments.
Already nine years earlier, in 1988, the US organization NOOA predicted that there would be a large area with debris at the base of observations from Alaska’s coastal areas. However, Moores, and later by other researchers, findings showed that the problem was much bigger than anyone could imagine. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as debris accumulation was named, proved to be not only one but two huge areas with plastic debris in the middle of the two ocean eddies in the North Pacific. The news was widely reported around the world. Media reported dramatically on a newly discovered continent which only consisted of plastic waste. A variety of research projects started, and soon the researchers were able to show that similar debris accumulations were found in all the world’s five large ocean eddies. According to researchers, this would mean a total of about 100 million tons of plastic waste. And it is feared that the amount will double in ten years if nothing is done to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the sea.
Baltic Sea: focus on anything other than trash
How is it in the Baltic Sea? We have here in Scandinavia have been pretty good at taking care of our waste. We have a long tradition of active environmental education, we have a well-functioning waste management and we have a judgmental attitude toward littering overall. Many organizations have been working actively for a clean Baltic Sea, and the Helsinki Commission got its Baltic Sea Action Plan in 2007. For visiting vessels, there are strict rules regarding waste management, and the Baltic Sea has special status in the MARPOL Agreement statutes on marine waste. One might, therefore, think that it looks better in the Baltic Sea than in other seas. But most of the environmental work has so far focused on anything other than rubbish. First, it was oil, radioactive substances, DDT, PCBs, mercury and other toxic substances. After a few years with abundant blooms awakened public and eutrophication became the main theme. Problems with plastic waste in the Baltic Sea has become a little on the side.
The project examines the origin of the waste
This spring started a research project, MARLIN (Baltic Marine Litter), whose goal is to get a more accurate picture of litter around the Baltic Sea. MARLIN administered by the Swedish Keep the Archipelago Tidy. With the project is also Finland, Estonia, and Latvia with their corresponding organizations. The survey is conducted on beaches that represent different environments and have different uses pressure. Everything from from marinas and typical recreational beaches are represented.
All debris found along a 100 meter stretch of beach on each analyzed a total of six times – spring, summer, and autumn – for two years. All rubbish is categorized ago, according to a method developed in the United Nations Environment Programme. The results will then be used to develop new and effective methods to curb littering the Baltic Sea.
Thirteen plastic bags of hundred meters
I was there when the first in project MARLIN examined. On Corporation Koivisto, we collected thirteen plastic garbage bags on a hundred meters distance. Thirteen plastic bags of hundred meters – it would mean 130 bags of one kilometer! And then we were in the Archipelago National Park, looking for a beach to the southwest and open sea. Before the sea face, you could say. Admittedly, this is one of the archipelago’s most visited natural harbors in the bay next door, but it was quite a bit of garbage that certainly could be attributed to boat-Semitism.
No, the debris that had floated ashore here had probably originated mainly from shipping out in the Gulf of Finland. So it seemed, at least, when they read often quite exotic texts washed ashore on the bottles and packaging. Another category likely descended from the fishing boats. Fishing ropes and floats were plentiful. The rest, from the toilet lid to hail cartridge cases, dish brushes and plastic sandals, had been of unknown origin.
Out in the oceans, a large part of the plastic debris from land-based sources. In many areas no functioning waste collection and there will often deliberately waste dumped in the ocean. Also, floods, hurricanes and tsunamis of huge amounts of waste at sea. In the Baltic Sea, we have neither floods, hurricanes or tsunamis. So remain conscious littering, unfortunately, as an important source. Fixed want to be positive about it, it’s good for the litter, we can do something about. It is also an environmental problem which is undoubtedly caused by us humans. Therefore, we can all be agreed that it is we who have to fix the problem. To clean up a beach is a good start.